Plutus or Hygeia? Thomas Beddoes and the Crisis of Medical Ethics in Britain at the Turn of the Nineteenth Century

  • Roy Porter
Part of the Philosophy and Medicine book series (PHME, volume 45)


There is a history of medical ethics which rightly should be the history of theories, codes, and formal treatises. There is also a history to be written of medical cases — legal and administrative — which raise ethical issues. But there is a third kind of subject matter which forms part of the history of medical ethics: the analysis of wider reflections upon the nature and standing of the medical profession within society. Thomas Beddoes (1760–1808), the subject of the following essay, was a practical physician who wrote widely about politics, including the politics of the medical profession. He nowhere tried to codify medical ethics, nor did he reflect upon the codes of medical ethics which were beginning to circulate in his day. One may guess that he would have found them so much hot air, mystifying ideology irrelevant to the real dilemmas of the conduct of medicine in society. But he has a place in the history of medical ethics, since he reflected intensely and extensively upon the ethical basis — or its lack !— for the practice of medicine at the end of the old regime.


Medical Ethic Eighteenth Century Industrial Revolution French Revolution Consumer Society 
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  • Roy Porter

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